The following list describes initiatives in Illinois aimed at increasing the availability, accessibility, or quality of early childhood programs and services within the state. Some initiatives are funded with public dollars, some are funded with private dollars, and some reflect a partnership of public and private support. Please contact us if you know of other early childhood initiatives in Illinois that are not included below.
- Caregiver Connections
In 2004, the Illinois Department of Human Services established Caregiver Connections to bring mental health services to Illinois child care providers. This unique, free support program helps child care providers recognize, understand, and respond to the social-emotional needs of the children, birth through age 5, in their care. Local Caregiver Connections consultants and the local Child Care Resource & Referral (CCR&R) agencies share the same territories and work in partnership to provide training and technical assistance to Illinois child care providers. The project is funded by the Illinois Department of Human Services and coordinated by Chaddock.
- Consortium for Community Systems Development
This is a project of the Illinois Action for Children’s Early Childhood Action Partnerships. Ensuring high-need children receive high-quality early learning services within a comprehensive system that serves all children is the primary focus of Illinois’ Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) initiative. Alignment and integration of early childhood resources, at both the state and local levels, are keys to meeting ambitious state goals for school readiness. Illinois Action for Children is charged with leading and developing efforts to strengthen and systematize local collaborations across the state. This work is concentrated in three areas: strategic planning, training, and technical assistance.
- The Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children (CLOCC) is a nationally recognized group that brings together hundreds of organizations and individuals to confront childhood obesity in Chicago. CLOCC fosters and facilitates connections among researchers; public health advocates and practitioners; corporations; policy makers; and children, families, and communities.
- Early CHOICES is a Preschool Least Restrictive Environment initiative of the Illinois State Board of Education. The project promotes increasing high quality inclusive education for each and every preschool aged child by providing technical assistance and professional development to early childhood professionals and families in Illinois.
- The Early Learning Council, a public-private partnership created in 2003 by Public Act 93-380, strengthens, coordinates and expands programs and services for children birth to age 5 throughout Illinois. With a membership including senior state officials and nongovernment stakeholders appointed by the governor, the Early Learning Council builds on current programs to ensure a comprehensive, statewide early learning system (preschool, child care, Head Start, health care, and support programs for parents) to improve the lives of Illinois children and their families. The Early Learning Council also oversees the state involvement in the Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge.
- ExceleRate Illinois is a statewide quality rating and improvement system designed to make continuous quality improvement an everyday priority among early learning and development providers. The program establishes standards for helping infants, toddlers, and preschool age children develop intellectually, physically, socially, and emotionally. It provides a framework for early learning and development professionals to identify opportunities for improvement, to increase their skills, and take steps to make positive changes. ExceleRate Illinois is administered through the Illinois Network of ChildCare Resource and Referral Agencies (INCCRRA) under the joint direction of the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood Development, the Illinois Department of Human Services, and the Illinois State Board of Education.
- The Gateways to Opportunity Career Lattice is a visual representation of six credential levels ranging from noncredit community-based training through completion of a graduate degree. Each credential level combines education, work and practical experience, and professional contributions in the field of early care and education. By advancing on the career lattice, practitioners can potentially open up additional career opportunities for themselves.
- The Gateways to Opportunity Scholarship Program is an individual-based scholarship opportunity for eligible practitioners working in early care and education (ECE) or school-age care programs.
- Great Start Wage Supplement Program
Great START (Strategy to Attract and Retain Teachers) can provide you with extra money on top of what you’re already making. Great START is a wage supplement program that rewards eligible early care and education practitioners in DCFS-licensed child care centers and family child care providers for receiving higher education and remaining at their current place of employment.
- Heartland Community College Equity and Inclusion Project (HEIP) is designed to ensure that paraprofessionals have the knowledge, skills, and dispositions required to support the diverse development and learning needs of young children and their families in high-quality inclusive classroom communities.
- Illinois Children’s Mental Health Partnership (ICMHP): Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation
This project provides infant/early childhood mental health consultation to mental health providers as well as child-serving agencies. Consultation is currently available throughout the state. Since 2008, ICMHP has provided grants to home visiting program s to fund Early Childhood Mental Health Consultants to work with program supervisors and staff. Call (312) 516-5569
- Illinois State Board of Education Early Childhood Division
Several state initiatives serving young children are supported by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), including Preschool for All, Prevention Initiative, Early Childhood Special Education, Early Childhood Professional Development, and the Kindergarten Individual Development Survey (KIDS). Call (217) 524-4835
- Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge Innovation Zones
In December 2012, Illinois was awarded a Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge grant from the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services to strengthen early childhood systems and kindergarten readiness for Illinois children. The Innovation Zone initiative will help the state test strategies to increase the engagement of children with high needs in high-quality early learning and development programs. The most effective strategies will be recommended for statewide or larger-scale adoption. Each Innovation Zone was selected based on level of concentrated need, presence of providers with a demonstrated interest in quality improvement, a history of collaboration among early education providers, and strong local support for early learning. Call (773) 564-8870
- Statewide Accreditation Mentoring (SAM) Project, an initiative of the Illinois Association for the Education of Young Children (Illinois AEYC), provides support and assistance to child care/early education programs in centers engaged in quality improvement with intent to achieve program accreditation. The program supports a variety of accreditation initiatives including the National Association for the Education of Young Children, National Early Childhood Program Accreditation, and the National Administrator Credential. Use the Illinois AEYC online form or call (800) 773-0369